Q&A about Dual Frequency label

Smartrac has announced the latest dual frequency label using EM company’s IC EM4423. There are questions regarding this revolutionary technology so we summarized a Q&A about that.

What is a Dual Frequency label?
  • The inlay’s EM4423 chip combines two functionalities on one single die: the RAIN RFID technology used for long-range application purposes; and the NFC technology used to exchange data in close proximity. Both protocols may share a common, unique ID.” [quoted from Smartrac announcement]
  • NFC and UHF protocol now share the same IC. It means the same information are now accessible through different hardware (smartphone with NFC or UHF handheld reader).
  • Apparently, single IC on a single label is supposed to be cheaper than 2 labels. However, the price always heavily depends on quantity and forms like packaging methods/materials.
  • One thing is for sure, NFC readers are also way much cheaper than UHF readers.

How does it different if I simply put one NFC label and one UHF label together, instead of using dual?
  • You need to write individual tag (NFC and UHF) if you want to update/write the info. It causes a higher the system cost, not to mention the equipment and manpower.
  • Get more clumsy if you need to match both info.

Photo: Special adaptor is needed to read UHF tag on a smartphone, but NFC doesn't requrie any.

Why we need both NFC and UHF label, instead of just either one?
  • NFC and UHF are designed for different applications using different radio frequency and protocol. They behave so differently that just like brothers with exactly opposite personalities.
  • NFC is easily readable by most of the android smartphone; readers are also much cheaper, some USB desktop reader cost less than US30. Proximity 1-on-1 reading is the main drawback but it is fine with general application like tapping to see the product’s URL link.
  • UHF provides much faster, longer range and multiple-tag reading performance; it is perfect for retails, logistic and manufacturing process; producers are much more willing to pay for the efficiency provided by more expensive device or gadgets.

Photo: Smartphone can read NFC (and even update E-link display), while UHF (upper label)  works in longer reading range.

Where would this Dual label be best used?
  • Exhibition visitor cards now can have a long reading range for people counts, while a shorter range for booth interaction.
  • Machine/product serial number label or ID labels are now not just for retail/logistics, general public user can also access to product information page for interaction with brands like authenticates / promotion / new product notice, etc.

Photo:  NFC 1-on-1 reading is perfect for wine biding applications. UHF's long range reading become handy in logistic applications.

What kind of software required to read/write Dual label?
  • PRODUCTO  ID” Solution provided by HK-RFID now supports both NFC and UHF. “ProductoID” is a set of tools that help product/brand owner to manage their product ID, using Smartrac’s high-quality Dual label.
  • More about “PRODUCTO  ID” solution is here.
  •  Note: Reading NFC doesn’t require any software but writing does.

Keywords: Retail, PID, Product, Retail RAIN RFID technology


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